Should we always tell the truth to a lover? Is it wrong for them to lie to us? For a long time I’ve sat on the fence when it comes to the ‘honesty is the best policy’ argument. Neither because I think it’s okay to lie nor because I think we should always be completely honest. If I haven’t got off the fence about it, it’s because it seems too black and white to take either side and I’ve always been one who sees the world in color.
I was a teenager the first time I lied to a boyfriend. In fact, agreeing to become his girlfriend was the lie. I felt sorry for him and found it hard to say no. I know, what a sap! But that was who I was at the time. And it took many more similar experiences for me to realize that by not saying what I really felt, I ended up making it harder on both of us down the line, whenever truth eventually won out (as it has a habit of doing). Dealing with deception is ultimately so much more painful than handling disappointment or rejection.
But there’s another reason, too, for why I refuse to take sides. I don’t think you can ever really judge what is right or wrong for another unless you understand what lies behind an action. Rather than sit in judgment on anyone (myself included), I’m more curious about why we sometimes find it difficult to be honest.
What is it that prevents us from revealing the truth and simultaneously feeling comfortable?
Lack of honesty comes in all shapes and sizes, from faking it in bed to playing mind games or concealing something about ourselves, to outright deception. And in many ways, dishonesty is just part of modern society. From childhood we learn to tailor the ‘face’ that we show the world in order to be accepted and respected. How we dress, what we do and say, even what we eat, are often more influenced by how we think the world will respond than by reflection of who we really are. Is it any wonder we’d choose to be selectively honest in our relationships as well? We’re much better prepared to create social masks that fit circumstances than we are to reveal our true nature.
So, while I refuse to take sides in the ‘should I always tell the truth’ debate, I nevertheless do believe our greatest chance at happiness lies in revealing our essence. When we dare to show ourselves, we deepen our ability to love and be loved unconditionally – which means being accepted for who we really are (although, yes, the reality of who we are does develop over time). When we conceal our deeper selves, or we’re unwilling to face that same depth in another, how can someone love us for who we really are? We are also less likely to attract the lover we most want – one who best fits us at a soul level – when we hide.
There are several common reasons for why we choose to conceal the truth. Often it’s fear – fear of being rejected and losing our lover if we tell the truth. Or fear of having to face another’s anger or hurt. It’s easy to say, ‘they’ll fly off the handle or be really hurt if I tell them what really happened or how I really feel’. And this is often the case. Few of us like confrontation or hurting another, and most of us will do what we can to avoid it, including being economical with the truth.
Sometimes it’s shame. We do something we later regret, perhaps swayed by the mood of a moment or unaware of some aspect of our personality until it jumps up and bites us. Does that sound familiar? There are very few of us who haven’t, at some stage, found ourselves acting in a way we think is out of character and, in the process, discovering an aspect of our shadow we hadn’t realized was there.
And there are times when it’s because we don’t have the necessary skills. Being honest, under circumstances where we are unsure how our honesty will be received, requires a number of tools that can take a while for us to develop.
- Self-awareness is one such skill. Are we aware of what our deeper truth is or are we deceiving ourselves at some level? It can be much more comfortable for our vulnerable egos to hide behind the excuse that we are not telling the truth because we want to protect a loved one, or because they wouldn’t understand, than it is to openly face issues such as dissatisfaction and boredom in a relationship, or a growing sense that we may be polyamorous. At least if know what’s going on with us at a deeper level and understand what may have prompted the lack of honesty, we have a choice about whether we are ready to deal with it directly or not.
- Good communication skills are another such tool. Finding the right words and tone to convey what we feel and then being willing to decipher what we are hearing back from a lover takes time and practice. Communicating well is about speaking, listening and trying to understand. It is not only about words, but also about full-body attention – picking up the subtle hints that may speak louder than words ever can. Identifying our emotions can be tricky enough, and having to find words to articulate them in a way that may be understood by another is even trickier. We all have our own internal decoding system when it comes to verbal language, and just because we may be lovers, it doesn’t mean we communicate in the same way. A degree of patience, too, is a critical part of healthy communication between lovers.
Handling honesty, though, in ourselves and in another, isn’t something that we become comfortable with overnight. In fact, it’s not something we ever necessarily become totally comfortable with. It’s more that we become comfortable with the discomfort involved. Taking a moment – when we lie or when we conceal the truth to wonder what our deeper motivation may be can give us a better sense of ourselves and, over time, it can also give us the confidence to show more of ourselves to a lover.
If you’re one of the many who find it difficult to tell it like it is to a loved one, take heart – almost everyone feels the same at some stage. A great place to start is in acknowledging it to yourself and taking time, in private, to find words that would express what you would like to say if you weren’t anxious about the possible outcome of being honest. Play it out in your mind or write it down. How might it go if you could be totally honest with a lover? How would you like them to respond? What fears do you need to sit with or, perhaps, get help with in order to feel freer with your truth?
Explore different ways of saying what you’d like to say. And when it comes to practicing honesty in real-time, give yourself permission to be emotional, to fumble for words, to feel totally vulnerable. Be prepared, too, to deal with your lover’s vulnerability. If we’ve been scared to be completely honest, chances are our lover may feel the same and they may need time out before they are ready to move into a deeper space with us. And there will be times when they choose not to go there at all – a risk we always run when baring a truth we’ve been holding back.
The most rewarding and nurturing of relationships are those that can handle honesty; and when we choose to conceal a truth, we may be depriving our relationship of an opportunity to expand beyond its current boundaries.
Or, to look at it another way, when we find a way of coming clean with a lover, or of hearing their truth, we give the relationship a chance to grow and develop. If a lover is unable to deal with honesty, even when we offer our sensitively and with consideration, perhaps it’s time to consider whether the relationship is one we want to continue with. With many more souls awakening to the reality of authentic relating, there is every reason to believe that either our current relationship can grow to be what we long for, or that an inspiring relationship is just around the corner.
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